Russia Notes as/A2 1881-1914

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Russian History 1881 – 1914

What was Russia like in 1881?

• 82% of the population were illiterate peasant farmers. • No technology was used on farms – subsistence farming. • Largest standing army in Europe. • No political parties and the press was heavily censored. • Fierce loyalty to the Tsar – often enforced by brutal secret police. • Royalty owned most of the land – Tsar’s estate was larger than some countries. • 1861 – Tsar Alexander II freed serfs but peasants still tied to land. • Aristocracy could no longer buy/sell peasants and they could freely marry. • Government loans given to peasants to buy land – 49 year loans. • Aristocracy still owned two thirds of Russian
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5 million Jews were blamed for Russia’s problems and some joined revolutionary groups. • Russification - an attempt by Alexander III’s govt to restrict the influence of national minorities within the Russian Empire. Russian was declared the official language. State interference in education, administration and religion increased. Nationalities that suffered particularly from discrimination were Ukrainians, Poles, Armenians and Finns.

Nicholas II (1894-1917)

• Nicholas II became Tsar of Russia and Grand Duke of Poland and Finland in 1894 aged 26. • He shared his father’s commitment to preserving autocracy and continued many of his repressive policies. • His powers were absolute and he ruled by divine right. • Nicholas could overrule any legislation orally making it difficult for anybody to reform Russia. • His nature was not suited to being Tsar and he allowed himself to be influenced by the Tsarina, Pobedonostov and various ministers – most famously Rasputin. • Russia was not as stable under Nicholas II as it could have been in the late 19th century - a strong monarch creates a strong country. • Russia’s Great Power status was based upon the size of its empire and strength of its army by 1881 - not the strength of its Tsar. • By the time Nicholas reigned Russia was behind the other Great Powers economically, socially and politically. • Its government was incompetent, inefficient and

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